Sunday, March 7, 2010


This is something I thought of a while ago; perhaps it's worth revisiting. As Anne Applebaum points out,

Before the quake, Chile also had regulations in place that required contractors to construct all new buildings to earthquake-resistant standards. Not every structure met the standards, but many did. And residents of those that did not will have some recourse: In the city of Concepción, residents of a new building that collapsed completely are threatening to take their builders to court, according to one report. The fact that they are even discussing this option implies that these apartment owners believe they have a court system that works, a legal system that could force builders to pay compensation, and a building regulatory system that is generally respected. Haiti has none of the above.

Turkey has some of the above, but not nearly enough. The average Turkish citizen wants nothing to do with the court system, believing it intimidating, incomprehensible, rigged, and vastly too expensive and time-consuming to use -- which it is. I speak from personal experience of taking a construction company to court.

The biggest problem is that it simply costs too much to sue someone. The cost of opening a lawsuit represents a substantial portion of an average Turk's annual income.

This article suggests a free-market solution to that problem. I wonder if it might be possible to start a profit-making company that invests in lawsuits?

Basically, since the idea of a lawsuit taken on a contingency basis doesn't exist here, it would be a way of filling that gap.

The idea has an obvious huge advantage over starting a legal aid society: There would be no need to appeal to anyone's good will. Profit would be the incentive, and you can always count on that as a strong incentive.

Any Turkish legal experts have any thoughts about the feasibility of this?


  1. TürkTort! That's pretty clever. Especially if you hire a bunch of lawyers to ride herd on the actual litigators. Clear enough money that you can lure judges to retire and come work with you, get their knowledge on how the system works (and can be worked).

    Don't forget all us little people when you're rich, Claire.

  2. Hey Claire,

    I read your articles and follow your blog once in a while.

    I am an attorney in the states. We (an American university) had a civil lawsuit (we were the defendants) in Ankara, Turkey, and it wasn't that expensive - though it kept getting delayed and we felt the attorneys representing us were double agents. The Turkish law firm agreed to take the case on a flat fee all the way to final judgment, including appeals, for a very reasonable price. I tried to get them to take it on a semi-contingency (you get X if we win the case, but only Y if we lose) but they didn't agree. And we paid half of the flat rate when we signed the engagement letter and the rest at the end of the case.

    The Turkish court system is like our American arbitration system with no juries, discovery or experts (except a court-appointed expert).

  3. "Not that expensive" is a relative term. If your annual income is USD 5,000, which is quite common -- it's expensive. The idea of a contingency suit just hasn't arrived, as you note. It's a really important idea. I hadn't quite realized how important until recently.

  4. Claire,

    Good point. We paid USD 6,000 (3k up front and 3k at the end). Honestly, I wasn't very impressed with the quality of our Turkish counsel (or the court system). They actually wanted more than 6k and I insulted them by saying "that is good money for you people." In my "tarzan" Turkish I said "alti bin iy para size".

    And I really liked Ankara and I stayed near the embassies at the Hilton Hotel (next to the Iranian embassy). But clothes are expensive at the mall I visited, especially shoes. I don't know how most Turks can afford to pay those prices.